The man who said he was choked and robbed in woods at a local park three weeks ago is a state childrens’ welfare investigator who went there to meet a teen-aged girl “who he met online,” police said.


Melvin Devall, 56, was arrested Friday on a felony charge of obstructing justice for allegedly giving police false statements about why he was at Coal Miners Park, the Pekin Police Department stated Monday in a post on its Facebook page.


Devall told police he is an investigator with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), the department stated.


Police arrested a 14-year-old girl, another juvenile and three young men shortly after the mid-afternoon assault on Aug. 26. The men were charged with aggravated robbery. The status of the two juveniles was not available Tuesday.

Devall was released from jail on a notice to appear in court Oct. 7 in court on the obstruction charge.


He has been placed on paid administrative leave, Veronica Resa of the Chicago-based DCFS Communications Office said Tuesday. Personnel privacy rights prevent her from providing further information about Devall’s work status and history with the agency, she said.


Devall, of 308 Henrietta St. in Pekin, told police he was on duty when he went to the park, the police department stated. He said he followed the girl into a wooded area where he was attacked.


“During the investigation, Devall made several statements to detectives that were later found to be false as to why he was at the park,” the department stated.


“Investigators later learned that Devall was there to meet a young girl who he met online. The false information obstructed the investigation, and detectives arrested Devall,” the department stated.


Police Public Information Officer Mike Eeten was not available Tuesday to provide further details about Devall’s alleged “online” contact with the girl.


Police said after the crime they were seeking to learn why Devall entered the woods with the girl. They did not reveal that he worked for the DCFS. That also was not revealed in a prosecutor’s court affidavit filed with the suspects’ robbery charges.


The affidavit stated that Devall was confronted by two men – Matthew Kapp and Jordan Baugh, both 18 of Pekin – and a 16-year-old youth when he walked into the woods. Baugh held a weapon that Devall realized was a BB gun, the affidavit stated.


He knocked the gun from Baugh’s hand and struggled with the two men, but was overcome when they choked him until he nearly passed out, Devall told police. The youth removed money from his pockets before the group fled to a nearby car, where Jacob Michael, also 18 of Pekin, was waiting.


Police were summoned by a 911 call and, with details of the car that a witness provided, traced it to Michael’s residence, where all five suspects were located. The girl provided details of the robbery that the others corroborated, the affidavit stated.


Devall received hospital treatment for his injuries.

Follow Michael Smothers at Twitter.com/msmotherspekin